FIDELIO - Forecasting Social Impacts of Biodiversity Conservation Policies in Europe

A research project that aims to explore socio-economic impacts if European "protected areas" and to predict how perceptions of these impacts change through time.

Funded by: European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme
Project Duration: 2019 - 2024 (5 years)

Project Objectives

The main objective of FIDELIO is to develop a new framework explaining social impacts of PAs and how these are linked with the level of acceptability of PAs focusing on three main issues:

  • the subjective nature of social impacts,
  • the differences in social impacts based on the area in which they are measured,
  • the change in social impacts through time.


Research Objective (RO) 1: To explain individuals’ perceptions on social impacts of PAs

The first research objective of the project is to explain why perceptions for social impacts differ among individuals who are from communities influenced by the establishment of a PA. Through the exploration of a variety of social, ecological and economic explanatory factors the project team will identify key parameters that have a crucial role in determining perceptions of costs and benefits (impacts) linked with the designation of a PA and influence the level of public acceptability.


Research Objective (RO) 2: To explore how perceptions on social impacts differ between communities.

The second research objective is linked with the assumption that perceptions on social impacts are socially constructed, meaning that the social and cultural environment of a PA will influence the perceived level of social impacts. Thus, a macro-level analysis is needed taking into consideration community level characteristics, spatial data and ecological factors in order to explore how and why social impacts differ across communities. The project focuses on European case studies which is a region significantly under researched on this specific topic.


Research Objective (RO) 3: To explore how and why social impacts change through time

The final research objective of the project refers to the change of social impacts of PAs through time. Social impacts have so far been measured mainly in a static way. However, impacts are expected to change over time (Schreckenberg, et al., 2010). There has been some empirical evidence that time is linked with the effectiveness of PAs (Vandeperre et al., 2011) and with positive impacts on poverty (Gurney et al., 2014). Furthermore, there is evidence that time influences pro-environmental behaviours and intentions (Vining & Ebreo, 1992). However, there is no evidence on how the perceptions of social impacts by citizens change through time taking also into consideration the interaction with social, ecological and economic factors.



FIDELIO will be completed in five years and includes three Work Packages (WPs). The research objectives will be accomplished through the development of a theoretical framework explaining perceptions on social impacts and the implementation of a mixed-methods approach through which the framework will be tested and improved. The empirical study will include in-depth semi-structured interviews and two large rounds of social surveys, with an approximate 3.5 year gap between them, in four Protected Areas in Europe.

Furthermore, the framework and model of the project will be tested in additional 15 PAs across Europe. This mixed-methods approach will allow the exploration of changes in perceived social impacts over time while taking into consideration the influence of explanatory factors both at micro and macro level. FIDELIO will be led by the PI and will be implemented in collaboration with a research team consisting of 2 post-doctoral researchers, 2 PhD students, 4 research assistants, several senior academics and local policy makers (members of the advisory board).

Project Updates

Developing the theoretical framework

A paradigm was proposed where several socio-economic and ecological parameters will be used as explanatory factors in order to better understand perceptions for social impacts. The framework will be continually improved throughout the project through the collection of data from 19 PAs.

In-depth exploration of social impacts in 4 case studies through semi-structured interviews

During the first four months of the project the research team are visiting the four research areas and conduct in-depth semi-structured interviews. Qualitative social techniques are increasingly applied in the ecosystems services literature providing significant information when an in-depth understanding of a social issue is needed (Moon et al., 2016).

The interview guide will focus on:

  • gathering data about perceptions of social impacts of the PAs from local stakeholders (including management actors and members of the local community) on social impacts of the PAs,
  • creating a timeline of recent events in the PAs linking these with perceptions on social impacts in the past and present and
  • capturing the main characteristics of the research areas regarding the socio-economic context, ecological factors and also policy relevant characteristics of the PA.


During the visits in the research areas the sampling frame also for the quantitative survey are also being defined.

The aim will be to include in the sampling frame all individuals affected by the PA and this will be determined in collaboration with the management actor of the area.

Sampling and distribution:

In the semi-structured interviews participants are selected in order to represent different stakeholders in the research area. The PI has already informed key actors and scientists in the research areas about the project and has secured collaborations.

These established networks will be a significant starting point in order to identify participants for the semi-structured interviews.

The aim is to conduct 15-20 interviews in each research area. The research team of FIDELIO will speak a variety of languages and local translators will be used if needed during the implementation of the interviews.

Furthermore, data collected in this task will be translated and analysed by the research team using software available at the host institution (NVivo).

Managing Body & Contact

FIDELIO consists of an interdisciplinary team including environmental, social and economic scientists from across Europe:

Core research team

Dr Nikoleta Jones, Principle Investigator

Prof Andreas Kontoleon (University of Cambridge)

Dr Francine Hughes, Senior researcher

Dr James McGinlay, Post-doctoral Research Fellow

Dr Chrisovaladis Malesios, Post-doctoral Research Fellow

The project will also fund two PhD students and several research assistant posts


Members of the Advisory Board

Prof Frank Vanclay, (University of Groningen)

Prof Kalev Sepp, (Estonian University of Life Sciences)

Prof Panayiotis Dimitrakopoulos, (University of the Aegean)

Prof Aled Jones, (Anglia Ruskin University)

Ms Kaja Lotman, (Estonian Environmental Board)

Dr Jan Age Riseth, (NORUT)

Dr Manos Koutrakis (Chair of the National Park of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace)

Ms Lenke Balint (Birdlife International)

Mr Nat Page (Fundatia ADEPT)

Mr Cristi Gherghiceanu (Fundatia ADEPT)


Cristi Gherghiceanu

Executive President
Fundatia ADEPT Transilvania

This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme.

For updates on the project please check also this page.

Biodiversity conservation and community development in Transylvania